Olympics-Alpine skiing-IOC grants extra places for Beijing as qualifiers under review


A security guard walks past advertising boards outside the Main Press Centre ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, January 24, 2022. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

LONDON (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has granted four extra quota places for male Alpine skiers at the Beijing Winter Olympics, which are due to start next week, as some qualifying events are "under review", the IOC told Reuters on Monday.

"The International Skiing Federation (FIS) has informed the IOC that the results of some qualifying events in Alpine Skiing for (Beijing) which were held under the authority of FIS are under review," the IOC said in an emailed statement.

"FIS has requested the IOC to increase the quota for Alpine Skiing by four. In the interest of all athletes concerned, the IOC has decided to accept the request by FIS and will grant four additional quota places in Alpine Skiing."

New quota rules for Alpine skiing at the Winter Olympics, scheduled for Feb. 4-20, are supposed to make access fairer for men and women as well as historically better- and weaker-performing nations.

At previous Winter Games, competing nations had the chance to distribute some places between men and women depending on their performance that season. In 2018, a team could send up to 14 men, this year up to 11.

If the men had better results that year, more men might be sent to the Olympics, which is what often happened.

This year the overall number of Alpine skiers has been cut to 306 out of which a maximum of 153 men can compete. At the same time, more nations are set to compete, allowing quota spots for more countries with less or no medal-winning history.

"IOC has stressed to FIS the need for a comprehensive review of the relevant aspects of the Olympic qualification system in order to avoid similar issues and impacts on athletes in future Olympic Winter Games," the IOC said.

PLACES ALLOCATED

Out of the four extra places, Austria will send two additional men to Beijing while Germany and France can send one each, FIS said.

When asked which qualifying events were under review and which qualifying nations, FIS said it could not provide details while the investigation was ongoing. It added there was no timeline on when the probe would be completed and results published.

Athletes can qualify for the Olympics in small events held apart from the big races of the season, such as World Cup competitions.

Such events can allow skiers who would not normally compete for World Cup or Championship titles to join the Olympics to widen participation and the appeal of the sport.

"A lot of these allocations to less well performing nations are taking away from the true competitors on the men's side, who have worked a lifetime at their craft," U.S. skier Steven Nyman told Reuters.

"I am all for the smaller nations competing but it shouldn't be at the cost of the actual competition."

Among nations currently on the list to compete against Alpine skiers from countries such as Austria and Norway in Beijing are Jamaica, Saudi Arabia https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/two-saudi-skiers-make-history-by-qualifying-winter-olympics-2022-01-17, India, Brazil, Ghana, Haiti and the Philippines.

The Swedish ski association welcomed the decision to add quota places.

"Having eligible athletes missing out on their Olympic experience, when there are serious doubts regarding the fairness of the qualification of others, is something we cannot support," it said.

"This does not affect us directly, but everything that affects the integrity and credibility of our sport is crucial in the long run, so therefore we are happy with this response from the FIS and IOC," Sweden said.

(Reporting by Shadia Nasralla, additional reporting by Simon Jennings; Editing by Ken Ferris, Clare Fallon and Christian Radnedge)

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